How the iPhone is killing the 'Net

Oxford professor argues in new book that shift from PCs to appliances, appalling cybersecurity will slow innovation

Zittrain also writes favorably about the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet's premier standards body, which focuses on rough consensus and running code. Zittrain likes that the IETF favors better "community ethics and policing'' in light of security breaches, rather than locked down appliances.

"Wikipedia shows us that the naivety of the Internet's engineers in building generative network technology can be justified not just at the technical layer of the Internet, but at the content layer as well,'' Zittrain says ."The idiosyncratic system that has produced running code among talented (and some not-so-talented) engineers has been replicated among writers and artists.''

How to preserve the 'Net's strengths

Zittrain explores several ways for the Internet to keep its generative features while also improving its stability. One of these ideas is virtual machines, which would allow end users to segregate data that needs to be kept secure in one virtual machine while keeping another virtual machine open to innovation. Another idea is tool kits that allow end users to volunteer their PCs to help detect and patch vulnerabilities. These tool kits would allow Internet users to work together to improve cybersecurity.

"It is easy for Internet users to see themselves only as consumers whose participation is limited to purchasing decisions that together add up to a market force pushing one way or another,'' he writes. "But with the right tools, users can also see themselves as participants in the shaping of generative space -- as netizens.''

Zittrain acknowledges that tethered appliances and Web 2.0 sites are here to stay. In order to maintain a balance between locked-down endpoints and the generative PCs that he favors, Zittrain recommends open, collaborative solutions like wikis, blogs and social networks to address such problems as cybersecurity and privacy.

"Our fortuitous starting point is a generative device on a neutral 'Net in tens of millions of hands. To maintain it, the users of those devices must experience the 'Net as something with which they identify and belong,'' he concludes. "We must use the generativity of the 'Net to engage a constituency that will protect and nurture it. That constituency must be drawn from the ranks of a new generation able to see that technology is not simply a video game designed by someone else, and that content is not simply what is provided through a TiVo or iPhone.''

Zittrain's book is interesting, but it isn't an easy read. He has an academic writing style that forces the reader to re-read some paragraphs before the meaning is clear. Although reading it requires some persistence, the book poses some thought-provoking ideas about the trade-off between convenience and innovation on the Internet.

IT professionals will like this book because it's brimming with gratitude for geeks, hobbyists and other tinkerers who know how to leverage the openness and flexibility of PCs and the Internet. And it's a call to arms to these folks not to succumb to the ease of iPhones, Blackberries and Google Apps.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Carolyn Duffy Marsan

Network World
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?